Biography

Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell (November 14, 1904 – January 2, 1963) was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.

Born in Mountain View, the seat of Stone County in northern Arkansas, Powell attended the former Little Rock College in the state capital, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Charlie Davis Orchestra, based in the midwest. He recorded a number of records with Davis and on his own, for the Vocalion label in the late 1920s.

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found great local success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater. In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought up Brunswick Records which at that time owned Vocalion. Warner Bros. was sufficiently impressed by Powell's singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his film debut as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event. He went on to star as a boyish crooner in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, often appearing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

Powell desperately wanted to expand his range but Warner Bros. wouldn't allow him to do so, although they did (mis)cast him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) as Lysander. This was to be Powell's only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part. Finally, reaching his forties and knowing that his young romantic leading man days were behind him he lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray, another Hollywood nice guy. MacMurray’s success, however, fueled Powell’s resolve to pursue projects with greater range and in 1944, he was cast in the first of a series of films noir, as private detective Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film was a big hit and Powell had successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor.

The following year Dmytryk and Powell re-teamed to make Cornered, a gripping, post-WWII thriller that helped define the film noir style. He became a popular "tough guy" lead appearing in movies such as Johnny O'Clock and Cry Danger. But 1948 saw him step out of the brutish type when he starred in Pitfall, a film noir that sees a bored insurance company worker fall for an innocent but dangerous femme fatale, played by Lizabeth Scott. Even when he appeared in lighter fare such as The Reformer and the Redhead and Susan Slept Here (1954) he never sang in his later roles. The latter, his final onscreen appearance in a feature film, did include a dance number with costar Debbie Reynolds.

From 1949-1953, Powell played the lead role in the National Broadcasting Company radio theater production Richard Diamond, Private Detective. His character in the 30-minute weekly was a likable private detective with a quick wit. When Richard Diamond came to television in 1957, the lead role was portrayed by David Janssen.

Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell (November 14, 1904 – January 2, 1963) was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.

Born in Mountain View, the seat of Stone County in northern Arkansas, Powell attended the former Little Rock College in the state capital, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Charlie Davis Orchestra, based in the midwest. He recorded a number of records with Davis and on his own, for the Vocalion label in the late 1920s.

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found great local success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater. In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought up Brunswick Records which at that time owned Vocalion. Warner Bros. was sufficiently impressed by Powell's singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his film debut as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event. He went on to star as a boyish crooner in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, often appearing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

Powell desperately wanted to expand his range but Warner Bros. wouldn't allow him to do so, although they did (mis)cast him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) as Lysander. This was to be Powell's only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part. Finally, reaching his forties and knowing that his young romantic leading man days were behind him he lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray, another Hollywood nice guy. MacMurray’s success, however, fueled Powell’s resolve to pursue projects with greater range and in 1944, he was cast in the first of a series of films noir, as private detective Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film was a big hit and Powell had successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor.

The following year Dmytryk and Powell re-teamed to make Cornered, a gripping, post-WWII thriller that helped define the film noir style. He became a popular "tough guy" lead appearing in movies such as Johnny O'Clock and Cry Danger. But 1948 saw him step out of the brutish type when he starred in Pitfall, a film noir that sees a bored insurance company worker fall for an innocent but dangerous femme fatale, played by Lizabeth Scott. Even when he appeared in lighter fare such as The Reformer and the Redhead and Susan Slept Here (1954) he never sang in his later roles. The latter, his final onscreen appearance in a feature film, did include a dance number with costar Debbie Reynolds.

From 1949-1953, Powell played the lead role in the National Broadcasting Company radio theater production Richard Diamond, Private Detective. His character in the 30-minute weekly was a likable private detective with a quick wit. When Richard Diamond came to television in 1957, the lead role was portrayed by David Janssen.

Personal Info

Known For Acting

Gender Male

Known Credits 91

Birthday 1904-11-14

Day of Death 1963-01-02

Place of Birth Mountain View, Arkansas, USA

Official Site -

Also Known As

  • Richard Ewing Powell

Acting TV ShowsMovies

2013 Classic Movie Bloopers: Uncensored as Himself (archive footage)
2008 Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History
1983 Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage as Himself (archive footage)
1975 Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? as (archive footage)
1965 Hollywood My Home Town
1963 Hollywood Without Make-Up
1961 The Dick Powell Show(61 episodes) as Host
1961 The DuPont Show of the Week(1 episode)
1959 The DuPont Show with June Allyson(2 episodes)
1956 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater(12 episodes)
1956 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater(147 episodes) as Himself - Host
1954 Climax!(1 episode)
1954 Susan Slept Here as Mark Christopher
1952 The Bad and the Beautiful as James Lee Bartlow
1952 This Is Your Life(1 episode)
1952 Four Star Playhouse(121 episodes)
1951 You Never Can Tell as Rex Shepherd
1951 The Tall Target as John Kennedy
1951 Cry Danger as 'Rocky' Mulloy
1950 Right Cross as Rick Garvey
1950 The Reformer and the Redhead as Andrew Hale
1949 Mrs. Mike as Sgt. Mike Flannigan
1949 The Emmy Awards(1 episode)
1948 Rogues' Regiment as Whit Corbett
1948 Station West as Lt. John Martin Haven
1948 Pitfall as John Forbes
1948 The Ed Sullivan Show(1 episode)
1948 To the Ends of the Earth as Commissioner Michael Barrows
1947 Johnny O'Clock as Johnny O'Clock
1947 Blow-Ups of 1947 as Himself
1945 Cornered as Laurence Gerard
1944 Murder, My Sweet as Philip Marlowe
1944 Meet the People as William 'Swanee' Swanson
1944 It Happened Tomorrow as Lawrence " Larry " Stevens
1943 True to Life as Link Ferris
1943 Riding High as Steve Baird
1943 Three Cheers for the Girls as Singer (Marine Hymn) - (film clip) (archive footage) (uncredited)
1943 Happy Go Lucky as Pete Hamilton
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm as Dick Powell - ' Hit the Road to Dreamland' Number
1941 In the Navy as Thomas Halstead
1941 Model Wife as Fred Chambers
1940 Christmas in July as Jimmy McDonald
1940 I Want a Divorce as Alan MacNally
1939 Naughty But Nice as Professor Donald Hardwick
1939 Hollywood Hobbies as Himself
1938 Going Places as Peter Mason
1938 Hard to Get as Bill
1938 Cowboy from Brooklyn as Elly Jordan, aka Wyoming Steve Gibson
1938 Breakdowns of 1938 as Himself
1937 Hollywood Hotel as Ronnie Bowers
1937 Varsity Show as Charles 'Chuck' Daly
1937 The Singing Marine as Bob Brent
1937 On The Avenue as Gary Blake
1937 Breakdowns of 1937 as Himself
1936 Gold Diggers of 1937 as Rosmer “Rossi” Peck
1936 Stage Struck as George Randall
1936 Hearts Divided as Jerome Bonaparte
1936 Colleen as Donald Ames 3rd
1936 One And One Is One as Himself
1935 A Dream Comes True as Himself (uncredited)
1935 Things You Never See on the Screen as Himself
1935 Thanks a Million as Eric Land
1935 Shipmates Forever as Richard John 'Dick' Melville III
1935 A Midsummer Night's Dream as Lysander, In love with Hermia
1935 Page Miss Glory as Betty
1935 Broadway Gondolier as Richard 'Dick' Purcell, aka Ricardo Purcelli
1935 Gold Diggers of 1935 as Dick Curtis
1934 Flirtation Walk as Dick 'Canary' Dorcy / Richard Palmer Grant Dorcy
1934 Happiness Ahead as Bob Lane
1934 Dames as James 'Jimmy' Higgens
1934 Twenty Million Sweethearts as Buddy Clayton
1934 Wonder Bar as Tommy
1934 And She Learned About Dames as Himself
1934 Hollywood Newsreel as Himself
1933 Convention City as Jerry Ford
1933 College Coach as Phillip 'Phil' / 'Sarge' Sargeant
1933 Footlight Parade as Scott 'Scotty' Blair
1933 Gold Diggers of 1933 as Brad Roberts
1933 42nd Street as Billy Lawler
1933 The King's Vacation as John Kent
1933 The Road Is Open Again as The Songwriter
1933 Just Around the Corner as Jerry
1932 Too Busy to Work as Dan Hardy
1932 Big City Blues as Radio Announcer (voice) (uncredited)
1932 Blessed Event as Bunny Harmon

Directing

1958 The HuntersDirector
1957 The Enemy BelowDirector
1956 You Can't Run Away from ItDirector
1956 The ConquerorDirector
1953 Split SecondDirector
1936 One And One Is OneDirector

Production

1967 GhostbreakersExecutive Producer
1961 The Dick Powell Show(1 episode)Executive Producer
1961 The Dick Powell Show(61 episodes)Producer
1957 The Enemy BelowProducer
1956 The ConquerorProducer

Crew

1973 Paper MoonThanks

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